2019-02-18

Raven 92: Attainment

FDR famously told us, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." But that's a lot to fear! Fear is powerful and not easily subdued.

In an opposite -- yet similarly paradoxical -- vein, we might say that we have nothing to attain except the awareness that we have nothing to attain. But that's a lot to attain!

Then there's remembering that we have nothing to attain. Even if we attain a moment of the awareness, it is easily soon forgotten. Attaining a life of continual remembrance that we have nothing to attain -- that's even harder to attain. Yet...there's nothing at all to attain. Never has been.

The verse by Keizan Jokin (1268-1325) for Denkoroku case #41 (translated by John Cook) makes the point:
Seeking it oneself with empty hands
You return with empty hands;
In that place where fundamentally nothing is acquired,
You really acquire it.
Alternative translations of the last two lines include Thomas Cleary's: "Where there is fundamentally not attainment, /After all one attains." And Hubert Nearman's: "Since, from the first, there was nothing to realize, /now, being satisfied, I have realized! (tr. Hubert Nearman)

Case
That same evening Owl said, "I've heard that you should not try to attain anything. What do you think?"
Raven said, "Not attain anything? Then what are you doing here?"
Owl said, "I think the idea is that we're Buddhas already, so there's nothing to attain."
Raven said, "An attained being said that."

Verse
One eye sees the effortlessness,
   of mountain, river, hackberry and elm
The other eye sees the minute and vast efforts
   of the earth pushing up a mountain,
   of water pushing a path around every rise,
   of photosynthesizing leaves, nutrient-grabbing roots,
      and a trillion busy cells.
Depth perception takes two angles of view.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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